Hide this

Cooking and Cognition: How Humans Got So Smart

September 06, 2008 | 48,800 views
Share This Article Share

cooking, cognition, smart, intelligence, brain, food, raw foodThe human brain went through two enormous evolutionary changes -- one in size, followed by an even more important one in cognitive ability. Your brain consumes huge amounts of calories and exhibits incredible prowess. In fact, your brain's roaring metabolism, possibly stimulated by early man's invention of cooking, may be the main factor behind our most critical cognitive leap, new research suggests.

Possibly about 2 million years ago, the human brain rapidly increased its mass until it was double the size of other primate brains. Some believe this is because humans started to eat better food. But then, about 150,000 years ago, a different type of spurt happened -- those big brains suddenly got smart. Humans started innovating, invented many new tools, and started creating art and perhaps religion.

Research suggests that increased access to calories spurred these cognitive advances. The extra calories may have come from the first hearths. Cooking, by breaking down fibers and making nutrients more readily available, is a way of processing food outside the body. Eating cooked meals would have lessened the energy needs of the human digestion system, thereby freeing up calories for the brain.

Effortless Healing – One Step at a Time – NOW AVAILABLE!

My newest book, Effortless Healing is now available! I've organized this book into a guide that will help you avoid the many pitfalls of the conventional approach to health. Rather than relying on expensive and potentially dangerous drugs, I will help you effortlessly make small shifts in what you eat and how you live to achieve your health goals. I promise, Effortless Healing isn't a book that will overwhelm you. On top of that, ordering the book today entitles you to 3 exclusive bonuses:


A sneak peek of my new book! You won’t need to wait for the book to arrive to get started. Begin reading my new book right away with your free sneak preview!


My most popular video interviews, all in one place. I’ve compiled 18 of my BEST expert interviews for you to watch and listen to at your leisure, and in the comfort of your own home or office.


Receive 15% off your next Mercola.com order. Depending on your order, your savings from this one bonus alone could more than cover the cost of your book!

All My Profits from This Book Will Be Donated

That's right. When you order a copy of my new book Effortless Healing, you'll be making a much-deserved donation to the key organizations that work quietly and efficiently behind the scenes to make the world a healthier place for you, your family, and your community.

Among them, you'll be benefiting and supporting the actions of:

  • National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) – A non-profit organization that seeks to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and defending your right of informed choice.
  • Organic Consumers Association (OCA) – A grassroots public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability, and addressing food safety, GMOs, the industrial agricultural complex, children's health, and more. The ONLY U.S. organization focused exclusively on the interests that you and I share!
  • Consumers for Dental Choice – Children, the unborn, and employees in the dental field are particularly vulnerable to mercury. But so is everyone with a mouthful of amalgam fillings (which are 50% mercury) at risk. Consumers for Dental Choice is working to phase out amalgam use and to promote access to mercury-free alternatives.
  • Fluoride Action Network (FAN) – An international coalition aimed at ending water fluoridation and alerting you to fluoride's environmental and health risks. FAN keeps you informed about fluoride toxicity, and monitors government actions that may expose you to fluoride.

Are you ready to get started? The timing has never been better. Order your copy of Effortless Healing today, collect your free gifts, and let your journey begin!


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

To understand what caused the cognitive spurt that took place some 150,000 years ago, these researchers examined chemical brain processes that were known to have been altered in that time, and by comparing apes and humans, they found the most robust differences were for processes involved in energy metabolism.

They believe that it was an increased access to calories – not necessarily from more food, but from the advent of cooking hearths -- that spurred mankind’s cognitive advances, although they admit it may be premature to make definitive claims of this.

That is probably a good thing, because I couldn’t disagree more with some of these researchers’ assessments and dietary comments.

It’s true that your gut requires significant energy to digest and extract nutrients from your food sources, but cooking your food does more than just break down fibers to make nutrients more available. On the contrary, many nutrients are altered or destroyed in the cooking process.

Researcher Philipp Khaitovich of the Partner Institute for Computational Biology states that “eating (mostly) cooked meals would have lessened the energy needs of our digestion systems, thereby freeing up calories for our brains.” Well, maybe -- maybe not. At this point I’m thinking that’s a fairly large leap, considering the overwhelming evidence that raw diets are far healthier and more nutritious than cooking most or all your foods.

Which is why I was especially dismayed when I saw the author finish off this article with an admonition to avoid raw food, and Khaitovich’s comment that, “devoted followers end up with very severe health problems."

Raw Foods are Essential for Good Health

Unfortunately, nearly every article written on raw foods in the media makes the SERIOUS mistake of excluding meat and animal protein from the raw food diet. There are abundant and plentiful examples from the animal kingdom that show us the importance of raw animal foods.

And it’s true, if you restrict your foods to raw plant foods only, as is mistakenly advocated by many, you will likely see a radical decline in your health.

The slope of that decline is directly related to your nutritional type.  

Strong carb types will not experience much of a decline at all, but strong protein types, who have a far greater need for animal protein, will find that their health declines very rapidly when eating only plant-based foods.

The Superior Benefits of Raw Foods

Why are raw foods so beneficial to you? Because they exist in their natural, unaltered form, the way nature intended. All its inherent synergistic benefits are left intact. 

When you cook foods, on the other hand, enzymes that are necessary for metabolic purposes in your body are destroyed. Additionally:

  • Toxic substances and cooked "byproducts" are created. The higher the cooking temperature, the more toxins are created.
  • Nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are depleted, destroyed, and altered.
  • Unusable waste material is created, which has a cumulative congesting and clogging effect on your body.
  • Eating enzyme-dead food places a burden on your pancreas and other organs and overworks them, which eventually exhausts these organs.
  • Putrefactive bacteria, particularly from cooked meat, dominate the natural population of beneficial intestinal flora resulting in dysfunction in your intestine.

Cooked food also devoid of biophotons, the light particles or “stored sun energy” that exists in raw foods. Biophotons contain important bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. The biophotons have the power to order and regulate, and, in doing so, to elevate the organism -- in this case, your physical body -- to a higher oscillation or order. This is manifested as a feeling of vitality and well-being.

Yet because of the widely circulated fear of germs, and the mistaken notion that everything must be near incinerated before it’s safe to eat, most people are scared to death of eating a raw egg, raw dairy products or raw meat.

That’s truly unfortunate.

Raw Animal Foods Won’t Make You Sick

Ok, it is possible to get sick from raw animal foods. But it’s also possible to get sick from raw vegetables, as we’ve seen from the organic spinach scare in 2006 and the more recent recall of tomatoes.

The key to making sure that any food you eat is safe is to get it from a high-quality source. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. When you are getting your meat, raw dairy, and eggs from animals that are healthy and raised in natural settings, as opposed to factory farms, there is very little risk in eating these foods raw.

The same goes for produce, as well.

I realize that it’s hard for many people to get their minds around the concept of eating raw meat, dairy and eggs. This is an advanced approach and I specifically outline that in my comprehensive nutritional guidelines.

But once you grasp the enormous health benefits that come from eating foods in their natural state -- and begin to do it for yourself -- it’s easy to break free from this myth.

Easing Into a Raw Diet

My eating plan emphasizes the need for at least one-third of your foods being consumed as raw. Personally, I aim for 85 percent of my diet to be raw. Unless I’m traveling, I am almost always over 50 percent, and typically around 85 percent. And yes, that includes animal proteins, as I am a protein nutritional type.

If you like, start slowly with a raw egg or glass of raw milk. Little by little you will see that these foods the public health agencies warn you about are not only safe, they’re healthy and delicious.

When you’re ready to give raw meat a try, this delicious raw steak tartare by healthy-recipe guru Luci Lock is a great place to start.

You have to do what feels right for you, but I believe once you venture too far from the natural order of things you are setting yourself up for some serious health consequences.

You know, 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes toward processed foods, and I believe THIS is one of the major reasons for most of our current health problems.

Thank you! Your purchases help us support these charities and organizations.

Food Democracy Now
Mercury Free Dentistry
Fluoride Action Network
National Vaccine Information Center
Institute for Responsible Technology
Organic Consumers Association
Center for Nutrtion Advocacy
Cornucopia Institute
Vitamin D Council
GrassrootsHealth - Vitamin D*action
Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico